Councillors gain insight on downtown plans

Red Deer city councillors say they gained valuable insight on downtown rejuvenation, affordable housing projects and building sponsorships during a national conference.

Red Deer city councillors say they gained valuable insight on downtown rejuvenation, affordable housing projects and building sponsorships during a national conference.

Councillors Paul Harris, Cindy Jefferies, Lynne Mulder, Chris Stephan, Dianne Wyntjes and Frank Wong attended the four-day Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Saskatoon, which ended on Monday.

One highlight was seeing the City of Red Deer’s resolution passed by members of the FCM to seek sustainable federal dollars for museums.

Councillors said that municipalities would like to see long-term infrastructure dollars from Ottawa. This was an important issue at the conference.

Some communities, like Red Deer, would like to see dollars towards community recreational and cultural projects. Typically, federal dollars come in the way of hard infrastructure like roads and sewer projects.

“It’s important to work with the federal government to recognize an appropriate plan over the next five to 20 years,” said Wyntjes on Wednesday.

Councillors attended various sessions, including on private-public partnerships and meeting the needs of an aboriginal population in an urban area.

A number of them went on tours through Saskatoon, a city numbering more than 260,000 compared with Red Deer’s population of around 92,000.

Red Deer leaders saw similarities, including how it recently moved its civic yards out of the downtown core.

“The (city) is trying to build an urban park front along their riverfront and develop their riverfront as it connects to their downtown,” said Jefferies. “And they have a market in a building that used to be in a public works building, not too far from the riverfront.”

The city is also doing major streetscaping in the downtown — all similar projects to what Red Deer is embarking on, said Jefferies.

“I went to an excellent session on sponsorship, which the city is looking at right now,” said Mulder. “It’s all about naming buildings and getting money to recognize another business, like the Enmax Centrium. So we’re looking at things that we could get sponsored to help increase our revenue and therefore decrease our taxes.”

Wong liked how the City of Saskatoon and the Saskatchewan governments, plus other partners, worked on funding affordable housing projects.

“They contribute to some of the downpayment for the low-income people,” said Wong.

“And that’s how they promote some of the affordable housing projects.”

Wong said he figures this downpayment program could work here.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said she was disappointed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t attend the meeting because he would have had a captive audience.

Wyntjes said it was a great opportunity to network with other municipal leaders, some veterans and others who are rookies like her.

“Saskatoon has an older area that they are doing some restructuring and updating to, and they also have urban sprawl,” Wyntjes added. “So that was interesting to see how they are doing work around that.”

Stephan couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Harris sought re-election as one of two Alberta representatives to the Federation of Canadian Muncipalities board. Two mayors — Norm Boucher from Medicine Hat and Moe Hamdon of Drayton Valley — were successful.

Harris figures a lot of representatives from smaller communities attended the meeting and so they weren’t aware of his work. There might have been a rural, urban split on the vote, Harris said.

“I’ve been strongly encouraged by the board to apply for the committees’ work, which is where most of the work gets done,” Harris said.

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